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The latest on major Northern California news events from the Bee newsroom.

November 27, 2012
Storm Watch: First round of rain, wind arrives

7:52 p.m. Wednesday
Umbrellas are in order today as the first in a series of potentially soaking storms has arrived.

The first storm today is expected to be windy with gusts around 30 mph in the Sacramento region. Rainfall amounts are expected to be around a half inch.

Related stories:

River of storms headed to Northern California

First in series of storms arrives


3:38 p.m. Tuesday

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District offers this advice for possible power outages.

• Become familiar with your service panel location and how to operate the main circuit breaker.

• Prepare a simple emergency kit: a flashlight, battery-operated clock, extra batteries, manual can opener, supply of bottled water

• Have a battery operated radio or television or to get news reports with estimated times that electricity will be restored.

If the power goes out:

• Call SMUD 24-hour outage line at 1-888-456-SMUD (7683) or visit smud.org on a smart phone.

• Turn off all electric appliances except one light while waiting for electricity to be restored. This makes it easier for SMUD crews to restore electric service.

• If yours is the only home on the street without power, check your electrical service box to see if the main circuit breaker has flipped off. If it has, and you are standing on dry ground and have dry hands, firmly push the switch to the switch to the "off" position and then to the "on"

position.

If stormy weather knocks down a power line:

• Call SMUD or 911 immediately. Assume the line is "energized" and stay away.

• Do not remove fallen tree limbs or other debris from lines. They could cause a shock.

Restoring power

The following priorities are used to determine where crews will be sent.

• Public safety hazards (power lines down, power poles down)

• Hospitals and critical flood and sewer control pumps

• Areas with large numbers of customers out of power

• Smaller, scattered outages

- Tony Bizjak

1:50 p.m. Tuesday

Although heavy rain is forecast for the weekend, officials with the California International Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, say the race has never been cancelled, and remains scheduled to go this year. More than 15,000 people are expected to participate in the 30th annual version of the 26.2-mile race.

"Runners are hardy," race spokesman John Schumacher said. "They'll be ready."

The event starts at 7 a.m. near the base of Folsom Dam, follows Fair Oaks Boulevard, and finishes in front of the state Capitol downtown.

Event coordinators provide drop bags at the start line for runners to shed extra clothing before the race starts. The drop bags are transported to the finish line.

- Tony Bizjak

1:42 p.m. Tuesday
Northern California residents are being urged to prepare for power outages this week as strong winds and rainfall are likely to knock down trees and power lines.

The Sacramento Valley and Sierra foothills can expect winds from 25 to 35 mph, with gusts to 45 mph in the valley and 55 mph in the foothills. Combined with heavy rain that will saturate soils, this could mean trees falling into power lines.

"It's critical that the public take a personal interest in preparing for this storm," Mark Ghilarducci, secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement.

That means keeping flashlights and extra batteries handy, as well as a battery powered radio and an alternate means to charge cell phones. Other necessities include keeping a three-day supply of food and water for each resident of a household. Residents should also secure outdoor furniture and other objects to prevent them from doing damage in strong winds.

The series of storms is expected to sweep across Northern California starting Wednesday morning. But the National Weather Service predicts the most intense periods of rain will come Thursday afternoon, Friday and Sunday, with the strongest winds likely Thursday through Saturday.

The service says it has "high confidence" in the timing and strength of the storms. The most intense rainfall areas, however, could shift somewhat, said Rob Hartman, meteorologist in charge of the California-Nevada River Forecast Center.

"There's always a chance we might not have it right. It's not an exact science," Hartman said. "But there is a lot of moisture out there, and it's coming our way."

- Matt Weiser

1:24 Tuesday

Here's the latest from the National Weather Service on what to expect in the coming storm series:

Very wet and windy weather arrives on Wednesday in Northern California, with rainfall becoming intense Thursday and through the weekend.

Mud and debris flows are possible, especially near areas burned in last summer's wildfires. Urban and small stream flooding is expected, and major rivers will rise.

The upper Sacramento River, upstream from the valley levee system, will likely exceed flood stage at several locations during the weekend.

-Loretta Kalb

12:16 Tuesday

Weather officials are currently predicting the brunt of this week's storms will strike Shasta County and the Northern Sierra counties of Tehama, Butte and Plumas.

This is worrisome because these areas have several large burn scars from wildfires over the summer, raising a concern about the potential for mudslides and debris flows on ground denuded of vegetation.

Today's forecast calls for impressive rain totals throughout Northern California. Sacramento could see as much as 7 inches of rain by Sunday. As much as twice that is predicted for the mountains and foothills in the Shasta area.

"There may be some pretty good creek flooding up around Red Bluff," said Rob Hartman, meteorologist of the California-Nevada River Forecast Center, a branch of the National Weather Service.

Of particular concern is the Battle Creek watershed in Shasta and Tehama counties, where the Ponderosa Fire burned more than 27,000 acres in August. The creek is the focus of a $128 million salmon restoration project funded by state and federal agencies. Heavy erosion in the watershed damage habitat that is vital to the project's success.

"We are very concerned about that," said Lt. Mark Lillibridge, coordinator of the Shasta County Office of Emergency Service. "We're going to get hammered, it looks like."

Lillibridge said Shasta County will make sandbags available to residents. It also has swiftwater rescue crews and a 300-member volunteer patrol on standby to assist in the storm.

Hartman stressed the forecast is preliminary at this point and the brunt of the storm could fall elsewhere.

"There's going to be some high intensity rain," he said. "Areas that had wildfires last summer would certainly be susceptible to that."

-Matt Weiser

12:09 Tuesday

Caltrans officials say they do not expect major snowfall on mountain highways this week, but warn that the warm storm could dump enough rain to cause mud and rock slides. Extra crews are positioned on the Interstate 80 and Highway 50 corridors in the mountains, Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins said.

She advised motorists to bring snow chains, water, food, blankets and flashlights if they travel in the mountains this week.

In the valley, Jenkins said, Caltrans maintenance crews will be patrolling low-lying highways that are prone to flooding, including the I-5 downtown "boat section." She said motorists on freeways should slow down even below 55 miles per hour during rain deluges, and to watch out for some standing water on low-lying sections of highways. Jenkins advised residents with old windshield wipers to replace them ahead of the storm, and suggested drivers fill their gas tanks.

For updated information on road conditions - including real-time camera views and message board info - travelers can check the Quikmap section of the Caltrans website at www.dot.ca.gov

-Tony Bizjak

11:25 Tuesday

Local flood officials say Sacramento County creek levels remain low and relatively free of debris in the lead-up to this week's storms, but they warn residents near creeks to be prepared for potential overflows.

Residents can get real-time updates about rising creek levels countywide at www.sacflood.org/sensdata/strmgrp.htm

That site shows, in 15-minute increments, how close each stream is to flood stage.

County officials are suggesting people who live near creeks in flood-prone areas to have sandbags on hand in case creeks overflow their banks.

"If you live near a creek that had flooded in the past, I would always have sandbags on hand. It doesn't take that many to protect a doorway," county water resources spokeswoman Diane Margetts said.

Residents of unincorporated Sacramento County who experience neighborhood flooding can call the county at 875-RAIN for help.

Residents can also check the county's Stormready.org website for advice and updates.

-Tony Bizjak

Related stories:

Storms on the way, prompting Sacramento Valley flood watch

Detailed forecast for the Sacramento area.

Send us your storm-related photos to share.

11:02 a.m. Tuesday

The city of Sacramento has assigned on-call crews for assistance with downed trees, clogged drains and flooded streets, officials said this morning.

Residents are advised to check the city website at www.cityofsacramento.org/transportation/storm/stormreadiness.html for information on how to prepare for this week's storms.

Among tips issued today by the city:

- Containerized Yard Waste customers are encouraged to use their container first. If you must place a pile on the street for collection, please check your next estimated collection date and place your pile on street, out of the way of the gutter, the day before your estimated collection day.

- Call 3-1-1 or use the free 311 App to have a City crew dispatched to assist with street flooding and downed trees or branches blocking the roadway.

- Be prepared for potential power outages by having flashlights and batteries available. For information on how you can be prepared, please visit SacramentoReady.org.

-Tony Bizjak

11:01 a.m., Tuesday

Sacramento County storm officials are warning residents the county likely will see localized neighborhood flooding during this week's rain storm, and are calling on residents to clean the leaves and other debris from around storm drains on their block.

"The biggest flooding problem this week is going to be plugged storm drains, especially with all the leaves," said Diane Margetts of the county Department of Water Resources. "People don't realize plugged storm drains are going to cause flooding. It can easily get into your garage or into your house."

County officials say they have an ongoing maintenance program that cleans inside storm drains, but it will be up to residents to clear out the heavy leaf fall expected this week from the top of storm drains, and from gutters near storm drains.

- Tony Bizjak

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